This era in history may be remembered as the "Peak Age", a brief time when nearly all materials used to power and create our society reach the maximum extraction and production potential. Past this point, all of these resources become increasingly difficult to extract until they are no longer economically viable resources to be using. There are hundreds of examples of resources, currently embedded in our industrial society, which have reached their peak in the 50 years surrounding 2010, but the one which will most impact our society is petroleum.

The goal of living for 100 days without oil is to understand the extent of our dependance on oil in American society today. Specifically, how it will affect my life, as a 25 year-oil living in Minneapolis, MN. By using myself as a metric I can take a close and conscious look at where oil dependance occurs in all aspects of our daily lives : How we transport ourselves from one place to another, what we eat, how much waste we create, how water is cleaned and transported, where oil is used as; an energy resource, in conventional medicine and for hygiene and how oil affects how we entertain ourselves and communicate with others. By demonstrating how someone would be forced to live without using any oil resources, outlining both what the sacrifices will be as well as the benefits, we can can identify the many systems which will have to be re-designed in a world without cheap oil, and explore a new way of living in which we live in an energy balance.

(At the bottom of this page is a link to my version of a flow diagram of 'Where Petroleum Exists in Our Daily Lives' (using information from the Energy Information Administration-Annual Energy Review 2008 fig 5.0 Petroleum flow) click and zoom to enlarge)

Monday, October 25, 2010


21 October 2010

Expanding on my last post, I calculated an estimate of how much food I eat each week to find out how much I would need to be storing during months outside of the growing season.  Although in this project I will not need to store food for longer than the last 3 weeks of the project (beginning of November to the end on Nov. 22nd), I would like to speculate on how much food I would need if I were continuing to eat only local foods through the entire year.  Looking back on the records I've been keeping on what I am eating every day, each week I eat:

_7 apples
_(other fruit when available)

_2 bunch of some kind of greens

_6 tomatoes
_6 potatoes
_1 carrot
_7 hot peppers
_2 bell peppers
_3 heads of garlic
_2 shallots
_2 onions
_(other vegetables as they are available)

I am growing greens so those would not need to be kept in some way (and it would be hard to keep greens).  However, for the rest, each month I would need:
_24 tomatoes
_24 potatoes
_4 carrots
_28 hot peppers
_8 bell peppers
_12 heads of garlic
_8 shallots
_8 onions
_28 apples

From looking back at my in-season food chart, I can calculate how much food I would need to cover all months that each food isn't in season.  The results are as follows:

Starting on November 1st I am going to be using only stored foods for the remainder of the project.  Here is the plan:

According to the University of Minnesota Extension you can store potatoes 4-6 months if kept in a cool (40 degrees) environment.  Sprouting at high temperatures is a problem, and potatoes should be kept in the dark to avoid greening. 

Canning seems to be the best way to preserve tomatoes.  While a lot of energy goes into the initial canning process, afterwards, no additional energy is needed to store them (such as freezing). 

Freezing is the most practical way to store these.  Hot peppers seems to dry well, but can only be used in certain dishes after losing all their water content.

Drying and freezing are both options.  Dried apples can be used for variety of things and take up much less space than freezing.

I have heard around that all of these have the possibility to be stored for up to 6 months when kept in cool (less than 40 degrees), and well ventilated locations.  This doesn't seem to mean the fridge because there isn't much air circulation inside a refrigerator.  A garage might work (don't have one of those).  Root cellars were an essential part of homes before fresh produce was made infinitely available year-round.  Built underground, or in a basement, they take advantage of the cool temperatures of the earth below grade.  Because many crops like to be in damp environments, having them buried in damp sand is one method I have heard of. 

Because I am only storing for less than a month, I won't have to worry about coming up with something close to root cellar-like conditions for most of the food, but this is an interesting consideration for designing homes in a post-cheap-oil world...


  1. Molly,
    When I was a kid, we used to gather all our green tomatoes from the garden before the first frost. We'd wrap them in newspaper and put them in a bushel basket in the stairway that went up to our attic (it was unheated and stayed cool in the fall). The tomatoes would ripen slowly, and I remember my mom sending me up to the attic to get tomatoes for several weeks. If you can get some fresh green tomatoes, storing them this way might be an option for you.


  2. You can dry all your peppers if you want. If you are boiling water for your meal just throw them in with whatever pasta/rice/potatoes. Or if you want to use them uncooked just put them in a bowl of water for about 10 min. and they will rehydrate very nicely (then you can saute/whatever them). just a thought.

  3. A lot of fruit, such as apples, pears, peaches, nectarines etc preserve really well. It's like canning but much easier - you just wash the jars and stick them in oven to keep really hot, boil the fruit and then ladle it into the jars. Push a knife down the side of the jar to get the air bubbles out then pop on the lid. In the old days they had to use proper preserving lids, but I just reuse any old jars with screw top lids. We have fruit all year round and it's also great in puddings! You can also preserve lots of other produce too, you probably know about it anyway, it's so easy.